Looking At Poor Health And Safety In Construction Construction Essay

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The aim of the report is to investigate reasons for poor health and safety performance of the company leading major/minor injuries and incidents of dangerous occurrences. Hence, identify the root causes of accidents and to know how establishing health and safety management systems can help in reducing accidents.

Background

Construction industry in UK is very large in size, diversified and complex in nature. It is very significant industry employing a very large workforce of around 2.1 million people, accounting 9% of the total employment within the UK (Howarth and Watson, 2009).

Construction work is hazardous work, safety and protection of the construction workers against injury arising out of their employment is quite evident and it is of a social concern. Lack of formal organisation makes the construction industry very peculiar in nature. Legislative, administrative or educational measures taken to translate this social concern into a concrete program of actions did not bring the desired results. Rate of growth in this industry is so rapid that implementation of the legislations and standards could not keep pace with it (Seetharaman, 2008).

Construction fatality rates in the year 2007/2008 were 3.4 per annum per 100,000 workers. According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE, 2010) Fatal Injury Statistics, in construction there were 42 fatal injuries, with a rate of 2.2 deaths per 100 000 workers. This compares to an average rate of 3.2 for the previous five years. Thus the rate for 2009/10 is 32% below the average for the previous five years.

The safety performance of a company is often expressed and evaluated in terms of its records of safety incidents or ill health. In order to identify common failings, these safety performance records can be categorised, analysed and evaluated, thus helping in the possible developments of the regulations, educational campaigns and practice guides. The health and safety performance of UK construction industry is guided and assisted by the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to ensure proper control of risks arising from work activities (Howarth and Watson, 2009).

In this 21st century, construction industry is constantly under the gravity of costing competition and tighter production deadlines, together with consistently increasing quality requirements and necessity of technological enhancements. The main objective of a construction project is time, cost and quality (ISARC, 2008). But along with these objectives it is necessary that the organisation should consider Health and Safety issues on the priority basis, so that life of the people is not at risk bringing social economic values to an organisation.

The Company- Millennium Contractors Ltd

Millennium Contractors Limited is a small and medium size enterprise working in UK since last 25 years, providing civil engineering and construction services. From the small beginnings the company has achieved year on year growth. Company's highly committed and well equipped workforce and their strivings for improvements in health and safety, training and quality has enhanced the company's ability to deliver safe and efficient service.

The working culture of the company is quite diversified employing people of different age groups and coming from various cultural background and ethnicity. It has always been proud to retain its value and assuring health and safety benefits to the people working in the company.

Although, the company recognises its responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all the employees, sub-contractors, visitors to site and other members of the public. But, the recent track record of the company in terms of safety performance is not very good and there have been several accidents.

Issues faced by the company

Taking into account the company's safety performance, a worker suffered a fatal injury after falling from mobile elevated working platform. The various issues faced by the company for which it was served with four enforcement notices are as follows:

Manual Handling

Five workers being hit by falling objects

Two workers being hit by moving vehicles

Two incidents of collapse of temporary structures and scaffoldings

Everyone involved in the construction activity has the primary responsibility of ensuring safety in construction. Despite of all the necessary steps for ensuring health and safety has been outlined in the company policy, still there are dangerous incidents occurring. Issue of the notices has hampered the company's reputation.

Mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) provides a safe working condition at height, allowing the worker to reach the task quickly and easily. But it is necessary to assess the risk associated with the use of MEWPs to avoid fatalities in future. The common causes of failures are as follows (HSE, 2006):

equipment failure;

ground conditions;

outriggers (not used or faulty);

trapping against fixed structure;

MEWP being struck by vehicle;

load/unload of MEWP under power;

overloading a carrier;

Carrier struck by a load

The risk of falling from a MEWP is due to sudden movements caused by an impact, ground movement, failure of a stability critical part, or overreaching. The risk of falling or being thrown out of the carrier can be prevented by wearing of appropriate fall protection equipment. Risk assessment have should be done to take precautions to eliminate and control the risks of falling or being thrown away from the carrier and it should be the employers as well as the person using MEWPs. The following points should be considered (HSE, 2006):

Nearby other vehicles, mobile plant or working equipment (eg overhead cranes)

Parts should not project beyond the site boundary (eg moving buses or large vehicles may struck MEWPs

General ground conditions of the site

MEWP should be examined, maintained and daily checks should be carried out

Carrier should not be caught in protruding features like steel work and tree branches

Legal Aspects: Safe use of lifting equipment. Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) 1998. The Regulations aim to reduce risks to people's health and safety equipment provided for use at work.

Manual Handling

Manual Handling is an occupational health and safety issue. Manual handling of loads means the use of the human body for transporting or supporting a load by one or more workers which includes lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving a load leading to injuries to the back, shoulders, neck, hands, arms and feet (Richold and Singleton, 2004). These injuries are internal muscular pain and tear, problem in the knee joints, slip discs, spondylitis etc. making a worker physically in capable. Manual Handling Assessment Charts (MAC) can be used to assess risks factors involved in manual handling operations (HSE).

Legal Aspects: Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, Section 2 of HSWA act 1974 and Reg. 10813 of management of health and safety at work regulation 1999 states that it is the duty of the employer to provide their employees the health and safety information and training. Further regulations 4 (1)(b)(ii) states that it is necessary to supplement to more specific information and training on manual handling risks and prevention as a part of the steps to reduce risk.

Injuries due to falling objects

Poor management and improper guidelines given to the workers to work at heights has led to issues like injuries due to hit by the falling objects. Workers have to work with various tools and small objects, no matter how small the object may be, when falls from height has a very serious consequences. These small objects may be hammers, chisel, roof tiles, nails, screw, bolts etc. The main cause of such injuries is because of poor house-keeping and inadequate storage space given to the workers. It is therefore necessary to motivate workers for proper house-keeping and provide toe boards, proper working platforms, edge barriers at height, avoiding high stacking of goods and adequate storage space should be given to the workers to store their goods. Use of air bags, safety nets, barricades and fall arrest equipment can help in preventing such consequences.

Legal Aspects: Regulation 8(b) part 1 of schedule 3, of the Work at Height Regulation, 2005, states that it is the duty of the employer to prevent, where necessary, injury to any person so far as reasonably practicable. It further states that the employer shall provide enough storage space so as to prevent risk of movement of such material.

Injuries due to being hit by vehicles

Construction machineries are largely required on site to carry out the construction process and transportation of goods and materials is a continuous process, due to which there is continuous flow of vehicles and people working on the site. Due to poor traffic control systems such incidents happen. In order to avoid such problems, proper signs and signals should be given at the site, there should be a designated entry and exit points, speed limits should be assigned within the construction premises and the vehicle should be maintained and checked on the daily basis. All the signs and signal should be as per British Standard 5378: Safety signs and colours. There should be a transport safety audit from time to time on sites.

Legal Aspects: Workplace (Health, safety and welfare) Regulation, Regulation 17 suggests that there should be efficient segregation of pedestrian from vehicular traffic of incoming and outgoing. In addition road marking and sign should comply Regulation Act 1984. Further as per Section 2(2) (a) of HSWA 1974, it is responsibility of the employer to maintain plant and system at workplace, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Collapse of the temporary structures and scaffoldings

Collapse of temporary structures, cranes and scaffoldings is an issue with health and safety of the company. Such incidents occur due to following reasons: use of poor quality materials for building temporary structure, unstable ground conditions, improper fixing and fastening, person assembling, person assembling the structure is not trained properly, structure not designed as per the requirements etc. In order avoid such collapse competent inspector should be able to identify the risks and hazards involved and instruct and guide the worker for building the structure. Moreover the employer should provide the workers with suitable equipment and provide collective measures along with personal protective measures.

Legal Aspect: As per the Work at Height Regulation 2005, Regulation6(4)(b), 6(5)(a,b), 7, 8, 12 and 13, states that it is necessary for the employer to provide suitable equipment, take account of working condition and rigorous inspection by a competent person. Further section 2(2) (a) of HSWA 1974, states there should be provision and maintenance of plant and machinery at work.

Moreover with such incidents, Millennium Contractors Ltd has failed in meeting standards of the company policy. With this it is essential to change the way the management foresee health and safety issues. It is necessary to bring change in the policy of the company and effectively implement it.

Safety Management Practices and system

As per HSC's HSG65 Publication, successful health and safety management system require the following (Howarth and Watson, 2009):

Clear for Policy for health and safety.

The Organisation of all employees for management of health and safety.

The Planning for health and safety by setting objectives and targets, identifying hazards, accessing risks and establishing standards against which the organisation can measure performance.

The Measurement of health and safety performance.

The Audit and Reviewing of safety performance and practice to order to inform improvement.

Management's commitments and taking new initiatives can help in combatting hazards and developing safety culture within the organisation. Developing safety culture is a safety approach to all activities requiring participation of organisational personnel and person's safety related attitude, behaviour and practice. Initiatives and good practice schemes helps in developing safety behaviour and the enhancement of a positive safety culture. These initiatives and good practice scheme includes (Howarth and Watson, 2009):

Formal education and training schemes such as Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)

Mandatory site inductions for people

Tool box talks- concerning the use of specific equipment or the undertaking activity

Project workshops facilitating and enhancing safety communications

Sufficient supervision and instruction ensures work is conducted in a planned and suitable manner

Considering company's accident records and safety performance, it is necessary to restructure the company policies and strategies and following steps must be taken (Howarth and Watson, 2009):

Site induction: No person should commence work on site without having received a site induction. The good induction should emphasis on:

Importance of health and safety

Access and egress routes on site

Personal protective equipment requirements on site

Site rules and regulations

Welfare facilities for workers

Correct use of equipment and plants

Identifying hazardous activities on site

Reporting of accidents and hazards immediately

Risk Assessment: Risk assessment should be done before starting any work or activity. The likelihood and severe outcome of the hazards and hazardous activities should be identified and assessed.

Method statements: Statement showing working procedures and methods to carry out work in a proper and in a safe manner should be produced by the suitably experienced personnel to the safety co-ordinator. Methods statements should be included in the health and safety plan and should be understood by the operators of the work.

Toolbox talks: Brief explanation should be given to the operators regarding nature of the work and appropriate use of equipment and machinery and ensuring their competency and safety in the work activity.

Measuring and reviewing safety performance: Regular inspections of safety practices and work procedures help in monitoring and reviewing project safety practice and policy.

Barriers in achieving zero accident policy

Management refraining from taking initiatives for maintain health and safety and providing training to employees, because of amount of money to be invested and returns cannot be guaranteed. The new working techniques and method may create confusion among the workers and making it difficult to understand and adopt. People working in a company come from different cultural background and ethnicity, hence it is difficult to convey message efficiently. Completion deadlines and achieving financial targets should not hamper health and safety plans of the company.

Conclusion

According to the report, it is necessary for the company to make changes to Health and Safety policies and strategies taking into consideration the humanitarian concern. The company should employ competent and knowledgeable personnel or individuals in terms of Health and Safety plans of the company. Efficient and effective management system is required for organising employees, measuring, auditing and reviewing safety performance, diversified nature of the company should ensure effective communication and understanding within the company, raising health and safety awareness. The company should ensure proper IITS-Induction, Information, Training & Supervision. In order to retain the company value, reputation and to improve health and safety performance of the company following recommendations are made

Recommendations

I recommend to follow the site safety rules and regulation

All the site personnel should carry training and safety competence evidence such as Construction Skills and Certification Scheme (CSCS) card.

Regular site meetings will help in effective co-ordination, communication and co-operation.

Use of multi-lingual sign boards, information boards, method statements and notices will help in better understanding of the workers coming from different background

Using construction accident investigation techniques and reporting systems such as accident root causes tracing ARCTM to identify causes behind accidents

Muster report used for emergency situations or tracking numbers of employees on site at a particular time.

Maintaining accident record book and recording of the incidents.

Campaigns for raising awareness, so that individual workers and companies take the issue of reporting accidents more seriously.

Workers should understand and consider the impact of unsafe work practices on their famalies.

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